Projecting best- and worst-case scenarios for every Big Ten team in 2022

·11 min read

It’s something every college football fan does for their team: what’s the best- and worst-case scenario heading into the season? What are the minimum and a maximum number of games my favorite team will win and lose?

This is something I’ve personally done for years and now I’m taking it to the keyboard for each and every Big Ten team as we look ahead to the 2022 season.

Check out my projections for each Big Ten team for this upcoming fall:

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Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 7-5 (4-5 in Big Ten)

It’s possible for Illinois to sweep their non-conference slate, and from there they’ll need to win four of five toss-up games (at Indiana, vs. Minnesota, at Nebraska, vs. Purdue and at Northwestern). It’s unlikely but possible for the Fighting Illini in year two under Bret Bielema.

Worst-case scenario: 1-11 (0-9 in Big Ten)

Wyoming in the season-opener is a game the Illini should win, but if they were to stumble in that one then things will go south quickly. I doubt we see Illinois have this brutal of a season but it’s possible if the team gets off to a rough start.


Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 6-6 (4-5 in Big Ten)

Indiana will need to get off to a fast start in 2022 in order to reach a bowl game. I could see the Hoosiers heading into a late-season bye at 5-3 and needing one more win to make a bowl game. The final win would, however, need to come against either Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State or Purdue so it won’t be easy against any of those foes.

Worst-case scenario: 2-10 (0-9 in Big Ten)

Indiana went winless in Big Ten play last fall so why can’t it happen again? I don’t expect that to happen for a second straight season but it’s certainly possible looking at the schedule.


Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 10-2 (7-2 in Big Ten)

If Iowa can get beat Michigan in an early-October home game, then they very well could be 6-0 heading into a major matchup with Ohio State on Oct. 22. I think that’s certainly possible to do, but with five of the final six games coming as toss-ups (or a likely loss at Ohio State), I don’t see the Hawkeyes doing any better than 10-2.

Worst-case scenario: 6-6 (3-6 in Big Ten)

Iowa doesn’t lose to Iowa State (and shouldn’t again this year) so I don’t see Iowa any worse than 4-2 at the halfway mark. From there, things get very difficult but I still think Iowa at minimum wouldn’t do worse than picking up pair of wins in their final six games (at Ohio State, vs. Northwestern, at Purdue, vs. Wisconsin, at Minnesota and vs. Nebraska) to become bowl eligible.


Scott Taetsch/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 7-5 (4-5 in Big Ten)

Maryland should sweep their non-conference slate and have three winnable games in conference play with at Indiana, Northwestern and Rutgers. If the Terps can then find a way to upset one of the following teams then that puts them at 7-5 on the year: at Michigan, vs. Michigan State, vs. Purdue, at Wisconsin, at Penn State and vs. Ohio State.

Worst-case scenario: 4-8 (1-8 in Big Ten)

It’s never easy in the Big Ten East Division and there’s a chance things go sideways and the Terps drop all of their inner-division matchups this fall. Maryland’s crossover games aren’t easy either with home tilts against Purdue and Northwestern, and a road trip to Wisconsin. It’s definitely possible for Maryland to not reach bowl eligibility with this difficult schedule.


Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 11-1 (8-1 in Big Ten)

Michigan may never again play an easier non-conference slate than this year so expect the Wolverines to win each of those three games. The rest of their schedule isn’t too bad either with only four games I see them potentially losing (at Iowa, vs. Penn State, vs. Michigan State and at Ohio State). Winning all four of those is unlikely but three out of four is definitely possible.

Worst-case scenario: 8-4 (5-4 in Big Ten)

With the schedule and talent returning, 8-4 would be a massive failure for the Wolverines this year. It’s unlikely Michigan ends up here but it’s possible for them to lose each of their toughest four games previously mentioned so I’m setting their floor at 8-4 for this fall.


Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 10-2 (7-2 in Big Ten)

I’m bullish on the Golden Gophers entering the 2022 season and can see a path to 10-2 and a potential Big Ten Championship Game berth. To reach this best-case scenario, Minnesota would need to take care of business in every game they’ll be favored and split their four tough road games (at Michigan State, at Penn State, at Nebraska and at Wisconsin).

Worst-case scenario: 5-7 (4-5 in Big Ten)

Should Minnesota lose all of their toss-ups to tough games, then we could see them missing out on a bowl game. Colorado at home is their toughest non-conference game — the Golden Gophers should win that one but if they don’t then that’s how we find Minnesota missing out on the postseason.


Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 9-3 (7-2 in Big Ten)

Nebraska lost every close game last year and this year they flip the switch to win every close game. The Cornhuskers have six games that will determine their success (vs. Oklahoma, at Purdue, vs. Minnesota, at Michigan, vs. Wisconsin and at Iowa) and if they win three of those six then 9-3 is in play.

Worst-case scenario: 5-7 (3-6 in Big Ten)

Nebraska continues to struggle in special teams and can’t figure out how to finish games late. This results in the Cornhuskers losing all six of their tough games previously mentioned and mix in an upset along the way to once again miss a bowl game and most likely end the Scott Frost era in Lincoln, Neb.


William Howard/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 6-6 (3-6 in Big Ten)

If Northwestern is able to beat Nebraska in Ireland to open the season, then there’s a strong chance they’ll open the year 4-0. From there, the schedule gets significantly tougher but in this scenario I see the Wildcats picking up wins in two of these three matchups: at Maryland, at Purdue and vs. Illinois.

Worst-case scenario: 2-10 (0-9 in Big Ten)

Northwestern generally doesn’t have two straight bad seasons under Pat Fitzgerald but if the offense doesn’t drastically improve from last year then it’s possible we see another clunker year for the Wildcats. In this projection, I have the Wildcats losing each league game and also slipping up against lousy Duke.

Ohio State

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Best-case scenario: 12-0 (9-0 in Big Ten)

The Buckeyes play a very challenging schedule this year but they’ll be favored in every game so a perfect season is certainly in play — and honestly the expectation for Ohio State.

Worst-case scenario: 9-3 (7-2 in Big Ten)

While it’s very unlikely, the schedule is tough enough for Ohio State to trip up a few times this year. Should the Buckeyes lose their season-opener against Notre Dame, then it would only take a couple of losses between these tough five conference games — vs. Wisconsin, at Michigan State, vs. Iowa, at Penn State and vs. Michigan — for the Buckeyes to finish 9-3. I wouldn’t bet on that happening but it’s technically possible to see happen.

Penn State

Matthew O’Haren/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 10-2 (7-2 in Big Ten)

Penn State has the talent capable of a bounce-back season, and while the schedule is tough I can see them winning 10 games. Road games at Purdue, Auburn and Michigan will be tough, and home matchups against Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota will be equally difficult. But if Penn State wins four of those six and doesn’t slip up elsewhere then that puts them at 10-2 on the year.

Worst-case scenario: 6-6 (4-5 in Big Ten)

James Franklin seems to always lose a game or two he shouldn’t each year so should that happen again this fall then we could see this worst-case scenario come into fruition. The first three weeks of the season will make-or-break Penn State with two tough road games (at Purdue and at Auburn) — should they lose both of those games then things could go south fast for Penn State.


Mike Carter/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 10-2 (7-2 in Big Ten)

Purdue’s season-opener against Penn State at home on a Thursday night will tell us a lot about the Boilermakers in 2022. Should they win that game, then I can see this squad reaching double-digit wins based on the favorable schedule.

Worst-case scenario: 6-6 (4-5 in Big Ten)

The Boilermakers have a favorable schedule but with that, there are a number of toss-up games too. Should they lose a few of those toss-up games early on (such as vs. Penn State and at Syracuse) and I could see this being a squad battling for a bowl bid entering the final week of the year.


Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 6-6 (3-6 in Big Ten)

Rutgers has a tough slate in 2022 but there have been noticeable improvements in the first two years under Greg Schiano. If the Scarlet Knights can find a way to win a handful of toss-up games this fall then a bowl game is certainly possible.

Worst-case scenario: 3-9 (1-8 in Big Ten)

If the Scarlet Knights drop their season-opener against Boston College, then getting to bowl eligibility will be tough in 2022. Rutgers has potentially six preseason top 25 teams on their schedule this year so it’ll be an uphill battle if things get off to a shaky start for the Scarlet Knights.


Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

Best-case scenario: 11-1 (8-1 in Big Ten)

After a disappointing 2021 season, Wisconsin will have a great opportunity to bounce back this year behind one of the nation’s top running backs in Braelon Allen. The schedule is tough with road games against Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Nebraska, but the Badgers are definitely capable of winning three of those four games to remain in the College Football Playoff conversation throughout the fall.

Worst-case scenario: 7-5 (5-4 in Big Ten)

Graham Mertz continues to struggle as the Badgers’ signal-caller and the running game isn’t enough to overcome his shortcomings. That leads to the Badgers stumbling early against Washington State and losing all four of their tough conference road games en route to a 7-5 finish.

Michigan State

Nick King/Lansing State Journal

Best-case scenario: 10-2 (7-2 in Big Ten)

Michigan State, like many in the Big Ten East Division, has a brutally tough schedule in 2022 so 10-2 is the high mark I see for the Spartans. There are six toss-up games — at Washington, vs. Minnesota, vs. Ohio State, vs. Wisconsin, at Michigan and at Penn State — and if the Spartans can win four of those six then that’s a great year and puts Michigan State back in the double-digit win total for a second straight year.

Worst-case scenario: 7-5 (5-4 in Big Ten)

As I already mentioned, Michigan State has an extremely tough schedule and if they were to lose a majority of their toss-up games then we are looking at a 6-6 or 7-5 season. I find it unlikely they’ll lose all six of those games so I have seven wins as the worst-case scenario for Michigan State in 2022.